Lenin Dies - History

Lenin Dies - History

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Munich Druing the Putch
Lenin suffered the first of three strokes in May 1922. He was partially paralized but recovered and returned to work. In December 1922 he suffered a second stroke and left him partialy paralysed. He suffered a third stroke in March of 1923 that left him totally paralysed and mute. On janaury 21 1924 he suffered a fourth and fatal stroke..

Vladamir Lenin died on January 21, 1924. By all accounts, he died of a stroke, the third stroke that he had had in a few months. His second stroke had left him unable to speak. He was 53 at the time of his death. While the cause of his death was known, why at a relatively young age, he suffered from repeated strokes has remained a mystery. At the time, commentators often attributed his condition to an assassination attempt on his life in 1918 that left a bullet lodged in his body. Still, contemporary doctors who have examined the case believe it's most likely from a genetic condition that caused a hardening of his arteries in the brain.

Lenin had died in Gorki. On January 23 his body was transported to Moscow by train. For three days, his body laid in state at the House of Columns in the House of Unions. On January 27, the body was brought to Red Square, where all of the leaders, except Trotsky, who was not in town, gave speeches. His body was then embalmed and placed in a mausoleum in Red Square, where it has remained until this day.
In the last months of his life, Lenin dictated a testament to be read after his death. He criticized various party leaders and warned explicitly of a future feud between Stalin and Trotsky. Lenin also called for the removal of Stalin as the General Secretary of the Party Central Committee. The testament presented the party leaders with a dilemma. All of them had been criticized by Lenin in the document; however, with Lenin's widow insisting that it be read, none was willing to go against Lenin's wishes. A solution was found by reading the document to separate delegations to the Communist Congress and not allowing them to take notes.

Vladimir Lenin dies of a brain haemorrhage

Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Bolshevik Revolution and the first leader of the Soviet Union, dies of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 54. In the early 1890s, Lenin abandoned his law career to devote himself to Marxist study and the provocation of revolutionary activity among Russian workers.

Arrested and exiled to Siberia in 1897, he later travelled to Western Europe, wherein 1903 he established the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party. The Bolsheviks were a militant party of professional revolutionaries who sought to overthrow the Czarist government and set up a Marxist government in its place.

In 1905, workers rebelled across Russia, but it was not until 1917, and Russia’s disastrous involvement in World War I, that Lenin realized that the opportunity for Communist revolution had come.

In March 1917, the Russian army garrison at Petrograd defected to the Bolshevik cause, and Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. Lenin immediately left Switzerland and crossed German enemy lines to arrive at Petrograd on April 16, 1917.

Six months later, under his leadership, the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, and Lenin became virtual dictator of the country. However, civil war and foreign intervention delayed complete Bolshevik control of Russia until 1920.

Lenin’s government nationalized industry and distributed land, and on December 30, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established.

Upon Lenin’s death in early 1924, his body was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum near the Moscow Kremlin. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor. Fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin succeeded him as leader of the Soviet Union.


Lenin wanted the testament to be read out at the 12th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to be held in April 1923. [1] However, after Lenin's third stroke in March 1923 that left him paralyzed and unable to speak, the testament was kept secret by his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, in the hope of Lenin's eventual recovery. She possessed four copies while Maria Ulyanova, Lenin's sister, had one. It was only after Lenin's death, on January 21, 1924, that she turned the document over to the Communist Party Central Committee Secretariat and asked for it to be made available to the delegates of the 13th Party Congress in May 1924. Krupskaya wanted the document circulated as widely as possible, in hopes of humiliating Stalin. [2] [3]

An edited version of the testament was printed in December 1927 in a limited edition made available to 15th Party Congress delegates. The case for making the testament more widely available was undermined by the consensus within the party leadership that it could not be printed publicly as it would damage the party as a whole.

The text of the testament and the fact of its concealment soon became known in the West, especially after the circumstances surrounding the controversy were described by Max Eastman in Since Lenin Died (1925). The Soviet leadership denounced Eastman's account and used party discipline to force Trotsky, then still a member of the Politburo, to write an article (see the quote from Bolshevik) denying Eastman's version of the events.

The full English text of Lenin's testament was published as part of an article by Eastman that appeared in The New York Times in 1926. [4]

From the time that Stalin consolidated his position as the unquestioned leader of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, in the late 1920s, all references to Lenin's testament were considered anti-Soviet agitation and punishable as such. The denial of the existence of Lenin's testament remained one of the cornerstones of historiography in the Soviet Union until Stalin's death on March 5, 1953. After Nikita Khrushchev's On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, in 1956, the document was finally published officially by the Soviet government.

Related documents Edit

This term is not to be confused with "Lenin's Political Testament", a term used in Leninism to refer to a set of letters and articles dictated by Lenin during his illness on how to continue the construction of the Soviet state. Traditionally, it includes the following works:

  • A Letter to a Congress, "Письмо к съезду"
  • About Assigning of Legislative Functions to Gosplan, "О придании законодательных функций Госплану"
  • To the "Nationalities Issue" or about "Autonomization", "К 'вопросу о национальностях' или об 'автономизации' "
  • Pages from the Diary, "Странички из дневника"
  • About Cooperation, "О кооперации"
  • About Our Revolution, "О нашей революции"
  • How shall We Reorganise the Rabkrin, "Как нам реорганизовать Рабкрин"
  • Better Less but Better, "Лучше меньше, да лучше"

The letter is a critique of the Soviet government as it then stood. It warned of dangers that he anticipated and made suggestions for the future. Some of those suggestions included increasing the size of the Party's Central Committee, giving the State Planning Committee legislative powers and changing the nationalities policy, which had been implemented by Stalin.

Stalin and Trotsky were criticised:

Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the C.C. on the question of the People's Commissariat of Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work. These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.

Lenin felt that Stalin had more power than he could handle and might be dangerous if he was Lenin's successor. In a postscript written a few weeks later, Lenin recommended Stalin's removal from the position of General Secretary of the Party:

Stalin is too coarse and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a [minor] detail, but it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.

By power, Trotsky argued Lenin meant administrative power, rather than political influence, within the party. Trotsky pointed out that Lenin had effectively accused Stalin of a lack of loyalty.

In the 30 December 1922 article, Nationalities Issue, Lenin criticized the actions of Felix Dzerzhinsky, Grigoriy Ordzhonikidze and Stalin in the Georgian Affair by accusing them of "Great Russian chauvinism".

I think that a fatal role was played here by hurry and the administrative impetuousness of Stalin and also his infatuation with the renowned "social-nationalism". Infatuation in politics generally and usually plays the worst role.

Lenin also criticised other Politburo members:

[T]he October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev [their opposition to seizing power in October 1917] was, of course, no accident, but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them personally, any more than non-Bolshevism can upon Trotsky.

Finally, he criticised two younger Bolshevik leaders, Bukharin and Pyatakov:

They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the younger ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with the great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully appreciated it).

As for Pyatakov, he is unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability, but shows far too much zeal for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied upon in a serious political matter.

Both of these remarks, of course, are made only for the present, on the assumption that both these outstanding and devoted Party workers fail to find an occasion to enhance their knowledge and amend their one-sidedness.

Isaac Deutscher, a biographer of both Trotsky and Stalin, wrote, "The whole testament breathed uncertainty". [5]

Short term Edit

Lenin's testament presented the ruling triumvirate or troika (Joseph Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev) with an uncomfortable dilemma. On the one hand, they would have preferred to suppress the testament since it was critical of all three of them as well as of their ally Nikolai Bukharin and their opponents, Leon Trotsky and Georgy Pyatakov. Although Lenin's comments were damaging to all of the communist leaders, Joseph Stalin stood to lose the most since the only practical suggestion in the testament was to remove him from the position of the General Secretary of the Party's Central Committee. [3]

On the other hand, the leadership dared not go directly against Lenin's wishes so soon after his death, especially with his widow insisting on having them carried out. The leadership was also in the middle of a factional struggle over the control of the Party, the ruling faction being loosely allied groups that would soon part ways, which would have made a coverup difficult.

The final compromise proposed by the triumvirate at the Council of the Elders of the 13th Congress after Kamenev read out the text of the document was to make Lenin's testament available to the delegates on the following conditions (first made public in a pamphlet by Trotsky published in 1934 and confirmed by documents released during and after glasnost):

  • The testament would be read by representatives of the party leadership to each regional delegation separately.
  • Taking notes would not be allowed.
  • The testament would not be referred to during the plenary meeting of the Congress.

The proposal was adopted by a majority vote, over Krupskaya's objections. As a result, the testament did not have the effect that Lenin had hoped for, and Stalin retained his position as General Secretary, with the notable help of Aleksandr Petrovich Smirnov, then People’s Commissar of Agriculture. [6]

Long term Edit

Failure to make the document more widely available within the party remained a point of contention during the struggle between the Left Opposition and the Stalin-Bukharin faction in 1924 to 1927. Under pressure from the opposition, Stalin had to read the testament again at the July 1926 Central Committee meeting.

Historian Stephen Kotkin, in his biography of Stalin, argues that Lenin's authorship of the Testament "must [be] treat[ed] with caution" [7] and suggests that it was more likely authored by Nadezhda Krupskaya. Kotkin pointed out that the purported dictations were not logged in the customary manner by Lenin's secretariat at the time they were supposedly given that they were typed, with no shorthand or stenographic originals in the archives, and that Lenin did not initial them [8] [9] that by the alleged dates of the dictations, Lenin had lost much of his power of speech following a series of small strokes on December 15-16, 1922, raising questions about his ability to dictate anything as detailed and intelligible as the Testament [10] [11] and that the dictation purportedly given in December 1922 is suspiciously responsive to debates that took place at the 12th Party Congress in April 1923. [12]

However this view is not widely accepted. The Testament has been accepted as genuine by the large majority of historians, including E. H. Carr, Isaac Deutscher, Dmitri Volkogonov, Vadim Rogovin and Oleg Khlevniuk. [13] [14] Kotkin's claims were also rejected by Richard Pipes soon after they were published. [15]

The great purges

In late 1934—just when the worst excesses of Stalinism seemed to have spent themselves—the Secretary General launched a new campaign of political terror against the very Communist Party members who had brought him to power his pretext was the assassination, in Leningrad on December 1, of his leading colleague and potential rival, Sergey Kirov. That Stalin himself had arranged Kirov’s murder—as an excuse for the promotion of mass bloodshed—was strongly hinted by Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the party, in a speech denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in 1956.

Stalin used the show trial of leading Communists as a means for expanding the new terror. In August 1936, Zinovyev and Kamenev were paraded in court to repeat fabricated confessions, sentenced to death, and shot two more major trials followed, in January 1937 and March 1938. In June 1937, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, at the time the most influential military personality, and other leading generals were reported as court-martialed on charges of treason and executed.

Such were the main publicly acknowledged persecutions that empowered Stalin to tame the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet elite as a whole. He not only “liquidated” veteran semi-independent Bolsheviks but also many party bosses, military leaders, industrial managers, and high government officials totally subservient to himself. Other victims included foreign Communists on Soviet territory and members of the very political police organization, now called the NKVD. All other sections of the Soviet elite—the arts, the academic world, the legal and diplomatic professions—also lost a high proportion of victims, as did the population at large, to a semi-haphazard, galloping persecution that fed on extorted denunciations and confessions. These implicated even more victims until Stalin himself reduced the terror, though he never abandoned it. Stalin’s political victims were numbered in tens of millions. His main motive was, presumably, to maximize his personal power.

Did the 1917 Revolution make Vladimir Lenin rich?

Before the Russian Revolution of 1917 made him the head of a new state, Lenin relied on odd jobs, publications - and even his mother for income. Things changed after the revolution, however.

The ascetic leader

The future leader of the Russian Revolution was never lavishly rich he maintained the ascetic way of life, even after finding himself on the top of the political ladder of the country.

Arriving in Moscow with his wife and younger sister in 1917, Lenin settled in the famous Hotel National right across from the Red Square. Although the hotel usually served as a harbor for high-ranking foreign dignitaries and politicians, its condition in 1917 &mdash the turbulent year of the Russian Revolution &mdash was far less luxurious than usual.

&ldquoShrapnel had shattered several windows,&rdquo described John Reed, journalist and author of a book about the Russian Revolution, of the Hotel National.

Lenin's cabinet in the Kremlin.

Nonetheless, Lenin and his family found it a suitable home for a period, while their Kremlin apartment was being prepared for them. In a few months, the new apartment was ready and Lenin moved in there with his wife and sister.

Lenin's apartment in the Kremlin.

Lenin&rsquos new apartment was spacious enough: it included an office, a meeting and reception rooms and was equipped with a switchboard operated by telephone operators. The new apartment had a somewhat luxurious bathroom: a spacious room had a bath equipped with a shower hose together with a toilet.

In 1918, an elevator was placed in the Kremlin for Lenin to use, as his apartment was located on the third floor.

The state pays

Although the new apartment was doubtlessly comfortable, it lacked the grandeur associated with the lifestyle of the former rulers of Russia. The interiors were not excessively lavish and lacked expensive decorations and items.

According to one anecdote, Lenin once asked for felt to cover the floor under his table to keep his feet warm. When an old rag was swapped for an opulent bearskin without Lenin&rsquos knowledge, he was furious and demanded to remove the novelty and return his old rag. &ldquoSuch luxury is unacceptable in our ruined, half-impoverished country,&rdquo the leader of the revolution reportedly said.

Vladimir Lenin and his wife in their countryside estate.

Although Lenin was demonstratively ascetic, he did not shy away from accepting various services paid by the state treasury.

The leader of the revolution required the attention of foreign medical specialists, which cost the state tens of thousands of U.S. dollars. Also, the state sponsored Lenin&rsquos two country houses &mdashdachas &mdash that required substantial investments to cover expenses for security and communication services, maintenance and furnishing. As Lenin&rsquos salary of 500 golden rubles a month could not cover all his expenses, funds were provided at the expense of the depleted state budget.

One of Lenin&rsquos particular weaknesses must have cost the state a small fortune: a garage of luxury cars used by the leader of the revolution.

The Rolls-Royce used by Lenin.

Occasionally, Lenin rode in his Renault 40 CV, Turcat-Mery 165 FM limo, Delaunay-Belleville 45, not to mention the world&rsquos only automated sled, based on the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost car model.

Allowing himself to indulge, Lenin was nonetheless conscious about the funds needed to maintain such a posh garage. In May 1922, he composed a letter where he inquired if the maintenance of the cars was too expensive.

&ldquoThe garage has six cars and only twelve people. The salaries are conventional. Cars are taken good care of. Cars are not used without a reason,&rdquo a reply was.

The automated sled based on the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

Nikolai Akimov, Dmitri Sokolov/TASS

After Vladimir Lenin died in 1924, his body was carried to Moscow on the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost sled from Leninskie Gorki &mdash one of his country estates near Moscow. The estate was inherited by his brother Dmitri, who occupied it up until 1949.

Click here to find out what happened to Lenin&rsquos brain after death?

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Later Years and Death

Lenin suffered a stroke in May 1922, and then a second one in December of that year. With his health in obvious decline, Lenin turned his thoughts to how the newly formed USSR would be governed after he was gone.

Increasingly, he saw a party and government that had strayed far from its revolutionary goals. In early 1923 he issued what came to be called as his Testament, in which a regretful Lenin expressed remorse over the dictatorial power that dominated Soviet government. He was particularly disappointed with Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party, who had begun to amass great power.


Several different terms are used to describe the intentional killing of large numbers of noncombatants. [1] [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] According to Anton Weiss-Wendt, the field of comparative genocide studies has very "little consensus on defining principles such as definition of genocide, typology, application of a comparative method, and timeframe." [2] [f] "Mass killing" has emerged as a "more straightforward" term. [g]

The following terminology has been used by individual authors to describe mass killings of unarmed civilians by communist governments, individually or as a whole:

    – Professor Ervin Staub defined mass killing as "killing members of a group without the intention to eliminate the whole group or killing large numbers of people without a precise definition of group membership. In a mass killing the number of people killed is usually smaller than in genocide." [3][h] Referencing earlier definitions, [i] Professors Joan Esteban, Massimo Morelli, and Dominic Rohner have defined mass killings as "the killings of substantial numbers of human beings, when not in the course of military action against the military forces of an avowed enemy, under the conditions of the essential defenselessness and helplessness of the victims." [4] The term has been defined by Professor Benjamin Valentino as "the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants", where a "massive number" is defined as at least 50,000 intentional deaths over the course of five years or less. [5] This is the most accepted quantitative minimum threshold for the term. [4] He applied this definition to the cases of Stalin's Soviet Union, China under Mao Zedong and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge while admitting that "mass killings on a smaller scale" also appear to have been carried out by regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Europe and various nations in Africa. [6] Alongside Valentino, Jay Ulfelder has used a threshold of 1,000 killed. [j] Alex Bellamy states that 14 of the 38 instances of "mass killing since 1945 perpetrated by non-democratic states outside the context of war" were by communist governments. [k] Professors Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago used the term "mass killing" from Valentino and concluded that even with a lower threshold (10,000 killed per year, 1,000 killed per year, or even 1 killed per year) "autocratic regimes, especially communist, are prone to mass killing generically, but not so strongly inclined (i.e. not statistically significantly inclined) toward geno-politicide." [l] According to Attiat F. Ott and Sang Hoo Bae, there is a general consensus that "mass killing" constitutes the act of intentionally killing a number of non-combatants, but that number can range from as few as four to more than 50,000 people. [7] Yang Su used the term "collective killing" for analysis of mass killing in areas smaller than a whole country that may not meet Valentino's threshold. [m] – Under the Genocide Convention, the crime of genocide generally applies to the mass murder of ethnic rather than political or social groups. The clause which granted protection to political groups was eliminated from the United Nations resolution after a second vote because many states, including the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, [8][n] feared that it could be used to impose unneeded limitations on their right to suppress internal disturbances. [9][10] Scholarly studies of genocide usually acknowledge the UN's omission of economic and political groups and use mass political killing datasets of "democide" and "genocide and politicide" or "geno-politicide." [11] The killings that were committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia has been labeled a "genocide" or an "auto-genocide" and the deaths that occurred under Leninism and Stalinism in the Soviet Union, as well as those that occurred under Maoism in China, have been controversially investigated as possible cases. In particular, the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 and the Great Chinese Famine, which occurred during the Great Leap Forward, have both been "depicted as instances of mass killing underpinned by genocidal intent." [o] – the term politicide is used to describe the killing of groups that would not otherwise be covered by the Genocide Convention. [12][n] Professor Barbara Harff studies "genocide and politicide"—sometimes shortened as "geno-politicide"—in order to include the killing of political, economic, ethnic and cultural groups. [p] Professor Manus I. Midlarsky uses the term politicide to describe an arc of large-scale killing from the western parts of the Soviet Union to China and Cambodia. [q] In his book The Killing Trap: Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Midlarsky raises similarities between the killings of Stalin and Pol Pot. [13] – Professor Rudolph Rummel defined democide as "the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command." [14] His definition covers a wide range of deaths, including forced labor and concentration camp victims killings by "unofficial" private groups extrajudicial summary killings and mass deaths due to the governmental acts of criminal omission and neglect, such as in deliberate famines as well as killings by de facto governments, such as warlords or rebels in a civil war. [15][r] This definition covers any murder of any number of persons by any government, [16] and it has been applied to killings that were perpetrated by communist regimes. [17][18] – The term communist holocaust has been used by some state officials and non-governmental organizations. [19][20][21] The similar term red Holocaust—coined by the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte[s][22] —has been used by Professor Steven Rosefielde for communist "peacetime state killings," while stating that it "could be defined to include all murders (judicially sanctioned terror-executions), criminal manslaughter (lethal forced labor and ethnic cleansing), and felonious negligent homicide (terror-starvation) incurred from insurrectionary actions and civil wars prior to state seizure, and all subsequent felonious state killings." [t] According to Jörg Hackmann, this term is not popular among scholars in Germany or internationally. [s]Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine writes that usage of this term "allows the reality it describes to immediately attain, in the Western mind, a status equal to that of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime." [u][23]Michael Shafir writes that the use of the term supports the "competitive martyrdom component of Double Genocide," a theory whose worst version is Holocaust obfuscation. [24] George Voicu states that Leon Volovici has "rightfully condemned the abusive use of this concept as an attempt to 'usurp' and undermine a symbol specific to the history of European Jews." [v] – Professor Stephen Wheatcroft notes that in the case of the Soviet Union terms such as "the terror", "the purges," and "repression" are used to refer to the same events. He believes the most neutral terms are "repression" and "mass killings," although in Russian the broad concept of repression is commonly held to include mass killings and it is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with it, which is not the case in other languages. [25] – Professor Michael Mann has proposed the term classicide to mean the "intended mass killing of entire social classes." [26][w] "Classicide" is considered "premeditated mass killing" narrower than "genocide" in that it targets a part of a population defined by its social status, but broader than "politicide" in that the group is targeted without regard to their political activity. [27] – Professor Klas-Göran Karlsson uses the term crimes against humanity, which includes "the direct mass killings of politically undesirable elements, as well as forced deportations and forced labour." Karlsson acknowledges that the term may be misleading in the sense that the regimes targeted groups of their own citizens, but he considers it useful as a broad legal term which emphasizes attacks on civilian populations and because the offenses demean humanity as a whole. [28] Historian Jacques Sémelin and Professor Michael Mann[29] believe that "crime against humanity" is more appropriate than "genocide" or "politicide" when speaking of violence by communist regimes. [30]

According to Klas-Göran Karlsson, discussion of the number of victims of communist regimes has been "extremely extensive and ideologically biased." [31] Rudolph Rummel and Mark Bradley have written that, while the exact numbers have been in dispute, the order of magnitude is not. [x] [y] Although any attempt to estimate a total number of killings under communist regimes depends greatly on definitions, [32] attempts have been made:

  • In 1978, journalist Todd Culbertson wrote an article in The Richmond News Leader, republished in Human Events, in which he stated that "[a]vailable evidence indicates that perhaps 100 million persons have been destroyed by the Communists the imperviousness of the Iron and Bamboo curtains prevents a more definitive figure." [z][aa]
  • In 1985, John Lenczowski, director of European and Soviet Affairs at the United States National Security Council, wrote an article in The Christian Science Monitor in which he stated that the "number of people murdered by communist regimes is estimated at between 60 million and 150 million, with the higher figure probably more accurate in light of recent scholarship." [ab]
  • In 1993, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, wrote that "the failed effort to build communism in the twentieth century consumed the lives of almost 60,000,000." [33][aa][ac]
  • In 1994, Rudolph Rummel's book Death by Government included about 110 million people, foreign and domestic, killed by communist democide from 1900 to 1987. [34] This total did not include deaths from China's Great Famine of 1958-1961 due to Rummel's then belief that "although Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine, he was mislead about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies." [35][36] In 2004, Tomislav Dulić criticized Rummel's estimate of the number killed in Tito's Yugoslavia as an overestimation based on the inclusion of low quality sources and stated that Rummel's other estimates may suffer from the same problem if he used similar sources for them. [37]
  • In 1997, the Stéphane Courtois introduction to the Black Book of Communism gave a "rough approximation, based on unofficial estimates" approaching 100 million killed. The subtotals listed by Courtois added up to 94.36 million killed. [ad]Nicolas Werth and Jean-Louis Margolin, contributing authors to the book, criticized Courtois as obsessed with reaching a 100 million overall total. [38] In his foreword to the 1999 English edition, Martin Malia noted "a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million." [ae]
  • In 2005, Benjamin Valentino stated that the number of non-combatants killed by communist regimes in the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, and Cambodia alone ranged from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million. [af][ag] Citing Rummel and others, Valentino stated that the "highest end of the plausible range of deaths attributed to communist regimes" was up to 110 million." [af][aa]
  • In 2005, a retired Rudolph Rummel, due to additional information about Mao's culpability in the Great Chinese Famine from the work of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, revised upward his total for communist democide between 1900 and 1999 from 110 million to about 148 million by including their estimated 38 million famine deaths. [35][36]
  • In 2010, Steven Rosefielde wrote in Red Holocaust that communism's internal contradictions "caused to be killed" approximately 60 million people and perhaps tens of millions more. [39]
  • In 2011, Matthew White published his rough total of 70 million "people who died under communist regimes from execution, labor camps, famine, ethnic cleansing, and desperate flight in leaky boats," not counting those killed in wars. [ah]
  • In 2012, Alex J. Bellamy wrote that a "conservative estimate puts the total number of civilians deliberately killed by communists after the Second World War between 6.7 million and 15.5 million people, with the true figure probably much higher." [ai]
  • In 2014, Julia Strauss wrote that, while there was the beginning of a scholarly consensus on figures of around 20 million killed in the Soviet Union and 2-3 million in Cambodia, there was no such consensus on numbers for China. [aj]
  • In 2016, the Dissident blog of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation made an effort to compile ranges of estimates using sources from 1976 to 2010 and concluded that the overall range "spans from 42,870,000 to 161,990,000" killed, with 100 million the most commonly cited figure. [ak]
  • In 2017, Professor Stephen Kotkin wrote in The Wall Street Journal that communism killed at least 65 million people between 1917 and 2017: "Though communism has killed huge numbers of people intentionally, even more of its victims have died from starvation as a result of its cruel projects of social engineering." [al][40]

The criticism of some of the estimates were mostly focused on three aspects, namely that (i) the estimates were based on sparse and incomplete data when significant errors are inevitable [41] [42] [43] (ii) some critics said the figures were skewed to higher possible values [41] [44] [am] and (iii) some critics argued that victims of Holodomor and other man-made famines created by communist governments should not be counted. [41] [45] [46]

Ideology Edit

Klas-Göran Karlsson writes: "Ideologies are systems of ideas, which cannot commit crimes independently. However, individuals, collectives and states that have defined themselves as communist have committed crimes in the name of communist ideology, or without naming communism as the direct source of motivation for their crimes." [47] Scholars such as Rudolph Rummel, Daniel Goldhagen, [48] Richard Pipes [49] and John Gray [50] consider the ideology of communism to be a significant causative factor in mass killings. [41] [51] The Black Book of Communism claims an association between communism and criminality, stating: "Communist regimes [. ] turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government" [52] while adding that this criminality lies at the level of ideology rather than state practice. [53]

Professor Mark Bradley writes that communist theory and practice has often been in tension with human rights and most communist states followed the lead of Karl Marx in rejecting "Enlightenment-era inalienable individual political and civil rights" in favor of "collective economic and social rights." [y] Christopher J. Finlay has argued that Marxism legitimates violence without any clear limiting principle because it rejects moral and ethical norms as constructs of the dominant class and "states that it would be conceivable for revolutionaries to commit atrocious crimes in bringing about a socialist system, with the belief that their crimes will be retroactively absolved by the new system of ethics put in place by the proletariat." [an] Rustam Singh notes that Karl Marx had alluded to the possibility of peaceful revolution, but after the failed Revolutions of 1848 emphasized the need for violent revolution and "revolutionary terror". [ao]

Literary historian George Watson cited an 1849 article written by Friedrich Engels called "The Hungarian Struggle" and published in Marx's journal Neue Rheinische Zeitung, stating that the writings of Engels and others show that "the Marxist theory of history required and demanded genocide for reasons implicit in its claim that feudalism, which in advanced nations was already giving place to capitalism, must in its turn be superseded by socialism. Entire nations would be left behind after a workers' revolution, feudal remnants in a socialist age, and since they could not advance two steps at a time, they would have to be killed. They were racial trash, as Engels called them, and fit only for the dung-heap of history." [54] [ap] Watson's claims have been criticized by Robert Grant for "dubious" evidence, arguing that "what Marx and Engels are calling for is [. ] at the very least a kind of cultural genocide but it is not obvious, at least from Watson's citations, that actual mass killing, rather than (to use their phraseology) mere 'absorption' or 'assimilation', is in question." [55] Talking about Engels' 1849 article and citing Watson's book, historian Andrzej Walicki states: "It is difficult to deny that this was an outright call for genocide." [56]

According to Rummel, the killings committed by communist regimes can best be explained as the result of the marriage between absolute power and the absolutist ideology of Marxism. [57] Rummel states that "communism was like a fanatical religion. It had its revealed text and its chief interpreters. It had its priests and their ritualistic prose with all the answers. It had a heaven, and the proper behavior to reach it. It had its appeal to faith. And it had its crusades against nonbelievers. What made this secular religion so utterly lethal was its seizure of all the state's instruments of force and coercion and their immediate use to destroy or control all independent sources of power, such as the church, the professions, private businesses, schools, and the family." [58] He writes that the Marxists saw the construction of their utopia as "though a war on poverty, exploitation, imperialism and inequality. And for the greater good, as in a real war, people are killed. And, thus, this war for the communist utopia had its necessary enemy casualties, the clergy, bourgeoisie, capitalists, wreckers, counterrevolutionaries, rightists, tyrants, rich, landlords, and noncombatants that unfortunately got caught in the battle. In a war millions may die, but the cause may be well justified, as in the defeat of Hitler and an utterly racist Nazism. And to many communists, the cause of a communist utopia was such as to justify all the deaths." [57]

Benjamin Valentino writes that mass killings strategies are chosen by communists to economically dispossess large numbers of people, [59] [aq] [k] arguing as such: "Social transformations of this speed and magnitude have been associated with mass killing for two primary reasons. First, the massive social dislocations produced by such changes have often led to economic collapse, epidemics, and, most important, widespread famines. [. ] The second reason that communist regimes bent on the radical transformation of society have been linked to mass killing is that the revolutionary changes they have pursued have clashed inexorably with the fundamental interests of large segments of their populations. Few people have proved willing to accept such far-reaching sacrifices without intense levels of coercion." [60] According to Jacques Sémelin, "communist systems emerging in the twentieth century ended up destroying their own populations, not because they planned to annihilate them as such, but because they aimed to restructure the 'social body' from top to bottom, even if that meant purging it and recarving it to suit their new Promethean political imaginaire." [ar]

Daniel Chirot and Clark McCauley write that, especially in Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China and Pol Pot's Cambodia, a fanatical certainty that socialism could be made to work motivated communist leaders in "the ruthless dehumanization of their enemies, who could be suppressed because they were 'objectively' and 'historically' wrong. Furthermore, if events did not work out as they were supposed to, then that was because class enemies, foreign spies and saboteurs, or worst of all, internal traitors were wrecking the plan. Under no circumstances could it be admitted that the vision itself might be unworkable, because that meant capitulation to the forces of reaction." [as] Michael Mann writes that communist party members were "ideologically driven, believing that in order to create a new socialist society, they must lead in socialist zeal. Killings were often popular, the rank-and-file as keen to exceed killing quotas as production quotas." [at] According to Vladimir Tismăneanu, "the Communist project, in such countries as the USSR, China, Cuba, Romania, or Albania, was based precisely on the conviction that certain social groups were irretrievably alien and deservedly murdered." [au]

Alex Bellamy writes that "communism's ideology of selective extermination" of target groups was first developed and applied by Joseph Stalin but that "each of the communist regimes that massacred large numbers of civilians during the Cold War developed their own distinctive account". [av] Martin Shaw writes that "nationalist ideas were at the heart of many mass killings by Communist states", beginning with Stalin's "new nationalist doctrine of 'socialism in one country'", and killing by revolutionary movements in the Third World was done in the name of national liberation. [aw]

Political system Edit

Anne Applebaum asserts that "without exception, the Leninist belief in the one-party state was and is characteristic of every communist regime" and "the Bolshevik use of violence was repeated in every communist revolution." Phrases said by Vladimir Lenin and Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky were deployed all over the world. She notes that as late as 1976 Mengistu Haile Mariam unleashed a Red Terror in Ethiopia. [61] Said Lenin to his colleagues in the Bolshevik government: "If we are not ready to shoot a saboteur and White Guardist, what sort of revolution is that?" [62]

Robert Conquest stressed that Stalin's purges were not contrary to the principles of Leninism, but rather a natural consequence of the system established by Lenin, who personally ordered the killing of local groups of class enemy hostages. [63] Alexander Yakovlev, architect of perestroika and glasnost and later head of the Presidential Commission for the Victims of Political Repression, elaborates on this point, stating: "The truth is that in punitive operations Stalin did not think up anything that was not there under Lenin: executions, hostage taking, concentration camps, and all the rest." [64] Historian Robert Gellately concurs, stating: "To put it another way, Stalin initiated very little that Lenin had not already introduced or previewed." [65]

Stephen Hicks of Rockford College ascribes the violence characteristic of 20th-century socialist rule to these collectivist regimes' abandonment of protections of civil rights and rejection of the values of civil society. Hicks writes that whereas "in practice every liberal capitalist country has a solid record for being humane, for by and large respecting rights and freedoms, and for making it possible for people to put together fruitful and meaningful lives", in socialism "practice has time and again proved itself more brutal than the worst dictatorships prior to the twentieth century. Each socialist regime has collapsed into dictatorship and begun killing people on a huge scale." [66]

Eric D. Weitz says that the mass killing in communist states is a natural consequence of the failure of the rule of law, seen commonly during periods of social upheaval in the 20th century. For both communist and non-communist mass killings, "genocides occurred at moments of extreme social crisis, often generated by the very policies of the regimes." [67] They are not inevitable, but are political decisions. [67] Steven Rosefielde writes that communist rulers had to choose between changing course and "terror-command" and more often than not chose the latter. [ax] Michael Mann argues that a lack of institutionalized authority structures meant that a chaotic mix of both centralized control and party factionalism were factors in the killing. [at]

Leaders Edit

Professor Matthew Krain states that many scholars have pointed to revolutions and civil wars as providing the opportunity for radical leaders and ideologies to gain power and the preconditions for mass killing by the state. [ay] Professor Nam Kyu Kim writes that exclusionary ideologies are critical to explaining mass killing, but the organizational capabilities and individual characteristics of revolutionary leaders, including their attitudes towards risk and violence, are also important. Besides opening up political opportunities for new leaders to eliminate their political opponents, revolutions bring to power leaders who are more apt to commit large-scale acts of violence against civilians in order to legitimize and strengthen their own power. [68] Genocide scholar Adam Jones states that the Russian Civil War was very influential on the emergence of leaders like Stalin and it also accustomed people to "harshness, cruelty, terror." [az] Martin Malia called the "brutal conditioning" of the two World Wars important to understanding communist violence, although not its source. [69]

Historian Helen Rappaport describes Nikolay Yezhov, the bureaucrat who was in charge of the NKVD during the Great Purge, as a physically diminutive figure of "limited intelligence" and "narrow political understanding. [. ] Like other instigators of mass murder throughout history, [he] compensated for his lack of physical stature with a pathological cruelty and the use of brute terror." [70] Russian and world history scholar John M. Thompson places personal responsibility directly on Joseph Stalin. According to him, "much of what occurred only makes sense if it stemmed in part from the disturbed mentality, pathological cruelty, and extreme paranoia of Stalin himself. Insecure, despite having established a dictatorship over the party and country, hostile and defensive when confronted with criticism of the excesses of collectivization and the sacrifices required by high-tempo industrialization, and deeply suspicious that past, present, and even yet unknown future opponents were plotting against him, Stalin began to act as a person beleaguered. He soon struck back at enemies, real or imaginary." [71] Professors Pablo Montagnes and Stephane Wolton argue that the purges in the USSR and China can be attributed to the "personalist" leadership of Stalin and Mao, who were incentivized by having both control of the security apparatus used to carry out the purges and control of the appointment of replacements for those purged. [ba] Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek attributes Mao Zedong allegedly viewing human life as disposable to Mao's "cosmic perspective" on humanity. [bb]

Soviet Union Edit

Adam Jones claims that "there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence which was unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy." Jones notes that the exceptions to this were the Khmer Rouge (in relative terms) and Mao's rule in China (in absolute terms). [72]

Stephen G. Wheatcroft asserts that prior to the opening of the Soviet archives for historical research, "our understanding of the scale and the nature of Soviet repression has been extremely poor" and that some scholars who wish to maintain pre-1991 high estimates are "finding it difficult to adapt to the new circumstances when the archives are open and when there are plenty of irrefutable data" and instead "hang on to their old Sovietological methods with round-about calculations based on odd statements from emigres and other informants who are supposed to have superior knowledge," although he acknowledged that even the figures estimated from the additional documents are not "final or definitive." [73] [74] In the 2007 revision of his book The Great Terror, Robert Conquest estimates that while exact numbers will never be certain, the communist leaders of the Soviet Union were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths. [bc]

Some historians attempt to make separate estimates for different periods of Soviet history, with casualty estimates varying widely from 6 million (for the Stalinist period) [75] to 8.1 million (for a period ending in 1937) [76] to 20 million [52] [bd] to 61 million (for the period 1917–1987). [77]

Red Terror Edit

The Red Terror was a period of political repression and executions carried out by Bolsheviks after the beginning of the Russian Civil War in 1918. During this period, the political police (the Cheka) conducted summary executions of tens of thousands of "enemies of the people." [78] [79] [80] [81] [82] Many victims were "bourgeois hostages" rounded up and held in readiness for summary execution in reprisal for any alleged counter-revolutionary provocation. [83] Many were put to death during and after the suppression of revolts, such as the Kronstadt rebellion of Baltic Fleet sailors and the Tambov Rebellion of Russian peasants. Professor Donald Rayfield claims that "the repression that followed the rebellions in Kronstadt and Tambov alone resulted in tens of thousands of executions." [84] A large number of Orthodox clergymen were also killed. [85] [86]

According to Nicolas Werth, the policy of decossackization amounted to an attempt by Soviet leaders to "eliminate, exterminate, and deport the population of a whole territory." [87] In the early months of 1919, perhaps 10,000 to 12,000 Cossacks were executed [88] [89] and many more deported after their villages were razed to the ground. [90] According to historian Michael Kort: "During 1919 and 1920, out of a population of approximately 1.5 million Don Cossacks, the Bolshevik regime killed or deported an estimated 300,000 to 500,000." [91]

Joseph Stalin Edit

Estimates of the number of deaths which were brought about by Stalin's rule are hotly debated by scholars in the fields of Soviet and Communist studies. [92] [93] Prior to the collapse of the USSR and the archival revelations which followed it, some historians estimated that the number of people who were killed by Stalin's regime was 20 million or higher. [75] [94] [95] Michael Parenti writes that estimates on the Stalinist death toll vary widely in part because such estimates are based on "anecdotes" in absence of reliable evidence and "speculations by writers who never reveal how they arrive at such figures". [96]

After the Soviet Union dissolved, evidence from the Soviet archives became available, containing official records of the execution of approximately 800,000 prisoners under Stalin for either political or criminal offenses, around 1.7 million deaths in the Gulags and some 390,000 deaths which occurred during kulak forced resettlement—for a total of about 3 million officially recorded victims in these categories. [be] However, official Soviet documentation of Gulag deaths is widely considered inadequate. Golfo Alexopoulos, Anne Applebaum, Oleg Khlevniuk and Michael Ellman write that the government frequently released prisoners on the edge of death in order to avoid officially counting them. [97] [98] A 1993 study of archival data by J. Arch Getty et al. showed that a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953. [99] Subsequently, Steven Rosefielde asserted that this number has to be augmented by 19.4 percent in light of more complete archival evidence to 1,258,537, with the best estimate of Gulag deaths being 1.6 million from 1929 to 1953 when excess mortality is taken into account. [100] Alexopolous estimates a much higher total of at least 6 million dying in the Gulag or shortly after release. [101] Jeffrey Hardy has criticized Alexopoulos for basing her assertions primarily on indirect and misinterpreted evidence [102] and Dan Healey has called her work a "challenge to the emergent scholarly consensus". [bf]

According to historian Stephen G. Wheatcroft, Stalin's regime can be charged with causing the "purposive deaths" of about a million people. [103] Wheatcroft excludes all famine deaths as "purposive deaths" and claims those that do qualify fit more closely the category of "execution" rather than "murder". [103] Others posit that some of the actions of Stalin's regime, not only those during the Holodomor, but also dekulakization and targeted campaigns against particular ethnic groups, can be considered as genocide [104] [105] at least in its loose definition. [106] Modern data for the whole of Stalin's rule was summarized by Timothy Snyder, who concluded that Stalinism caused six million direct deaths and nine million in total, including the deaths from deportation, hunger and Gulag deaths. [bg] Michael Ellman attributes roughly 3 million deaths to the Stalinist regime, excluding excess mortality from famine, disease and war. [107] Several present scholars, among them Stalin biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore, Soviet/Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonov, and the director of Yale's "Annals of Communism" series Jonathan Brent, still put the death toll from Stalin at about 20 million. [bh] [bi] [bj] [bk] [bl]

Mass deportations of ethnic minorities Edit

The Soviet government during Joseph Stalin's rule conducted a series of deportations on an enormous scale that significantly affected the ethnic map of the Soviet Union. Deportations took place under extremely harsh conditions, often in cattle carriages, with hundreds of thousands of deportees dying en route. [108] Some experts estimate that the proportion of deaths from the deportations could be as high as one in three in certain cases. [bm] [109] Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish-Jewish descent who initiated the 1948 Genocide Convention and coined the term genocide himself, assumed that genocide was perpetrated in the context of the mass deportation of the Chechens, Ingush, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, and Karachay. [110]

Regarding the fate of the Crimean Tatars, Amir Weiner of Stanford University writes that the policy could be classified as "ethnic cleansing". In the book Century of Genocide, Lyman H. Legters writes: "We cannot properly speak of a completed genocide, only of a process that was genocidal in its potentiality." [111] In contrast to this view, Jon K. Chang contends that the deportations had been in fact based on genocides based on ethnicity and that "social historians" in the West have failed to champion the rights of marginalized ethnicities in the Soviet Union. [112] This view is supported by several countries. On 12 December 2015, the Ukrainian Parliament issued a resolution recognizing the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars (the Sürgünlik) as genocide and established the 18th of May as the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Crimean Tatar Genocide. [113] The Parliament of Latvia recognized the event as an act of genocide on 9 May 2019. [114] [115] The Parliament of Lithuania did the same on 6 June 2019. [116] Canadian Parliament passed a motion on 10 June 2019, recognizing the Crimean Tatar deportation as a genocide perpetrated by Soviet dictator Stalin, designating the 18th of May to be a day of remembrance. [117] The deportation of Chechens and Ingush was acknowledged by the European Parliament as an act of genocide in 2004, stating: [118]

Believes that the deportation of the entire Chechen people to Central Asia on 23 February 1944 on the orders of Stalin constitutes an act of genocide within the meaning of the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 and the Convention for the Prevention and Repression of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948. [119]

Soviet famine of 1932–1933 Edit

Within the Soviet Union, forced changes in agricultural policies (collectivization), confiscations of grain and droughts caused the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Volga Region, and Kazakhstan. [120] [121] [122] The famine was most severe in the Ukrainian SSR, where it is often referenced as the Holodomor. A significant portion of the famine victims (3.3 to 7.5 million) were Ukrainians. [123] [124] [125] Another part of the famine was known as Kazakh catastrophe, when more than 1.3 million ethnic Kazakhs (about 38% of the population) died. [126] [127] Many scholars say that the Stalinist policies that caused the famine may have been designed as an attack on the rise of Ukrainian nationalism [128] and thus may fall under the legal definition of genocide. [120] [129] [130] [131]

The famine was officially recognized as genocide by the Ukraine and other governments. [132] [bn] In a draft resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared the famine was caused by the "cruel and deliberate actions and policies of the Soviet regime" and was responsible for the deaths of "millions of innocent people" in Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia. Relative to its population, Kazakhstan is believed to have been the most adversely affected. [133] Regarding the Kazakh catastrophe, Michael Ellman states that it "seems to be an example of ‘negligent genocide’ which falls outside the scope of the UN Convention of genocide." [134]

Great Purge Edit

Stalin's attempts to solidify his position as leader of the Soviet Union led to an escalation of detentions and executions, climaxing in 1937–1938 (a period sometimes referred to as the Yezhovshchina, or Yezhov era) and continuing until Stalin's death in 1953. Around 700,000 of these were executed by a gunshot to the back of the head. [136] Others perished from beatings and torture while in "investigative custody" [137] and in the Gulag due to starvation, disease, exposure and overwork. [bo]

Arrests were typically made citing counter-revolutionary laws, which included failure to report treasonous actions and in an amendment added in 1937 failing to fulfill one's appointed duties. In the cases investigated by the State Security Department of the NKVD from October 1936 to November 1938, at least 1,710,000 people were arrested and 724,000 people executed. [138] Modern historical studies estimate a total number of repression deaths during 1937–1938 as 950,000–1,200,000. These figures take into account the incompleteness of official archival data and include both execution deaths and Gulag deaths during that period. [bo] Former "kulaks" and their families made up the majority of victims, with 669,929 people arrested and 376,202 executed. [139]

The NKVD conducted a series of "national operations" which targeted some ethnic groups. [140] A total of 350,000 were arrested and 247,157 were executed. [141] Of these, the Polish operation which targeted the members of Polska Organizacja Wojskowa appears to have been the largest, with 140,000 arrests and 111,000 executions. [140] Although these operations might well constitute genocide as defined by the UN convention, [140] or "a mini-genocide" according to Simon Sebag Montefiore, [141] there is as yet no authoritative ruling on the legal characterization of these events. [106]

Citing church documents, Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev has estimated that over 100,000 priests, monks and nuns were executed during this time. [142] [143] Regarding the persecution of clergy, Michael Ellman has stated that "the 1937–38 terror against the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and of other religions (Binner & Junge 2004) might also qualify as genocide." [144]

In the summer and autumn of 1937, Stalin sent NKVD agents to the Mongolian People's Republic and engineered a Mongolian Great Terror [145] in which some 22,000 [146] or 35,000 [147] people were executed. Around 18,000 victims were Buddhist lamas. [146]

In Belarus, mass graves for several thousand civilians killed by the NKVD between 1937 and 1941 were discovered in 1988 at Kurapaty. [148]

Soviet killings during World War II Edit

Following the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, NKVD task forces started removing "Soviet-hostile elements" from the conquered territories. [149] The NKVD systematically practiced torture which often resulted in death. [150] [151] According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, 150,000 Polish citizens perished due to Soviet repression during the war. [152] [153] The most notorious killings occurred in the spring of 1940, when the NKVD executed some 21,857 Polish POWs and intellectual leaders in what has become known as the Katyn massacre. [154] [155] [156] Executions were also carried out after the annexation of the Baltic states. [157] During the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa, the NKVD and attached units of the Red Army massacred prisoners and political opponents by the tens of thousands before fleeing from the advancing Axis forces. [158] Memorial complexes have been built at NKVD execution sites at Katyn and Mednoye in Russia, as well as a "third killing field" at Piatykhatky, Ukraine. [159]

Victims of Soviet NKVD in Lviv, June 1941

Katyn 1943 exhumation (photo by International Red Cross delegation)

Plaque on the building of Government of Estonia, Toompea, commemorating government members killed by communist terror

People's Republic of China Edit

The Chinese Communist Party came to power in China in 1949 after a long and bloody civil war between communists and nationalists. There is a general consensus among historians that after Mao Zedong seized power, his policies and political purges directly or indirectly caused the deaths of tens of millions of people. [160] [161] [162] Based on the Soviets' experience, Mao considered violence to be necessary in order to achieve an ideal society that would be derived from Marxism and as a result he planned and executed violence on a grand scale. [163] [164]

Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries Edit

The first large-scale killings under Mao took place during his land reform and the counterrevolutionary campaign. In official study materials that were published in 1948, Mao envisaged that "one-tenth of the peasants" (or about 50,000,000) "would have to be destroyed" to facilitate agrarian reform. [165] The exact number of people who were killed during Mao's land reform is believed to have been lower, but at least one million people were killed. [163] [166] The suppression of counterrevolutionaries targeted mainly former Kuomintang officials and intellectuals who were suspected of disloyalty. [167] At least 712,000 people were executed and 1,290,000 were imprisoned in labor camps. [168]

Great Leap Forward and the Great Chinese Famine Edit

Benjamin Valentino claims that the Great Leap Forward was a cause of the Great Chinese Famine and the worst effects of the famine were steered towards the regime's enemies. [169] Those who were labeled "black elements" (religious leaders, rightists and rich peasants) in earlier campaigns died in the greatest numbers because they were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food. [169] In Mao's Great Famine, historian Frank Dikötter writes that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history." [170] Dikötter estimates that at least 2.5 million people were summarily killed or tortured to death during this period. [171] His research in local and provincial Chinese archives indicates the death toll was at least 45 million: "In most cases the party knew very well that it was starving its own people to death." [172] In a secret meeting at Shanghai in 1959, Mao issued the order to procure one third of all grain from the countryside, saying: "When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill." [172] In light of additional evidence of Mao's culpability, Rummel added those killed by the Great Famine to his total for Mao's democide for a total of 77 million killed. [36] [bp]

Tibet Edit

According to Jean-Louis Margolin in The Black Book of Communism, the Chinese communists carried out a cultural genocide against the Tibetans. Margolin states that the killings were proportionally larger in Tibet than they were in China proper and "one can legitimately speak of genocidal massacres because of the numbers that were involved." [173] According to the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, "Tibetans were not only shot, but they were also beaten to death, crucified, burned alive, drowned, mutilated, starved, strangled, hanged, boiled alive, buried alive, drawn and quartered, and beheaded." [173] Adam Jones, a scholar who specializes in genocide, notes that after the 1959 Tibetan uprising the Chinese authorized struggle sessions against reactionaries, during which "communist cadres denounced, tortured, and frequently executed enemies of the people." These sessions resulted in 92,000 deaths out of a total population of about 6 million. These deaths, Jones stressed, may not only be seen as a genocide, but they may also be seen as an "eliticide", meaning "targeting the better educated and leadership oriented elements among the Tibetan population." [174] Patrick French, the former director of the Free Tibet Campaign in London, writes that the Free Tibet Campaign and other groups have claimed that a total of 1.2 million Tibetans were killed by the Chinese since 1950 but after examining archives in Dharamsala, he found "no evidence to support that figure." [175] French states that a reliable alternative number is unlikely to be known, but he estimates that as many as half a million Tibetans died "as a 'direct result' of the policies of the People's Republic of China" by using historian Warren Smith's estimate of 200,000 people who are missing from population statistics in the Tibet Autonomous Region and extending that rate to the borderland regions. [176]

Cultural Revolution Edit

Sinologists Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals estimate that between 750,000 and 1.5 million people were killed in the violence of the Cultural Revolution in rural China alone. [177] Mao's Red Guards were given carte blanche to abuse and kill people who were perceived to be enemies of the revolution. [178] In August 1966, over 100 teachers were murdered by their students in western Beijing. [179]

Yang Su writes that Mao's government designated class enemies using an artificial and arbitrary standard in order to accomplish two political tasks: "mobilizing mass compliance and resolving elite conflict". The elastic nature of the category allowed it to "take on a genocidal dimension under extraordinary circumstances." [bq] Finkel and Strauss write that Su estimates up to three million people were "murdered by their neighbors in collective killings and struggle rallies. This happened even though the central government had not issued any mass killing orders or policies." [180]

Tiananmen Square Edit

Jean-Louis Margolin states that under Deng Xiaoping, at least 1,000 people were killed in Beijing and hundreds of people were also executed in the countryside after his government crushed demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. [181] According to Louisa Lim in 2014, a group of victims' relatives in China called the "Tiananmen Mothers" has confirmed the identities of more than 200 of those who were killed. [182] Alex Bellamy writes that this "tragedy marks the last time in which an episode of mass killing in East Asia was terminated by the perpetrators themselves, judging that they had succeeded." [183]

Replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue in Hong Kong's June 4th Museum

A memorial to the 1989 Tiananmen Square events in the Dominican Square in Wrocław, Poland

Statue located in Ávila, Spain recalling the events of Tiananmen Square

Cambodia Edit

The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and their bodies were buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country, which lasted from 1975 to 1979, after the end of the Cambodian Civil War.

Sociologist Martin Shaw described the Cambodian genocide as "the purest genocide of the Cold War era." [184] The results of a demographic study of the Cambodian genocide concluded that the nationwide death toll from 1975 to 1979 amounted to 1,671,000 to 1,871,000, or 21 to 24 percent of the total Cambodian population as it was estimated to number before the Khmer Rouge took power. [185] According to Ben Kiernan, the number of deaths which were specifically caused by execution is still unknown because many victims died from starvation, disease and overwork. [185] Researcher Craig Etcheson of the Documentation Center of Cambodia suggests that the death toll was between 2 and 2.5 million, with a "most likely" figure of 2.2 million. After spending five years researching about 20,000 grave sites, he concluded that "these mass graves contain the remains of 1,112,829 victims of execution." [186] A study by French demographer Marek Sliwinski calculated slightly fewer than 2 million unnatural deaths under the Khmer Rouge out of a 1975 Cambodian population of 7.8 million, with 33.5% of Cambodian men dying under the Khmer Rouge compared to 15.7% of Cambodian women. [187] The number of suspected victims of execution who were found in 23,745 mass graves is estimated to be 1.3 million according to a 2009 academic source. Execution is believed to account for roughly 60% of the total death toll during the genocide, with other victims succumbing to starvation or disease. [188]

Helen Fein, a genocide scholar, states that the xenophobic ideology of the Khmer Rouge regime bears a stronger resemblance to "an almost forgotten phenomenon of national socialism", or fascism, rather than communism. [189] Responding to Ben Kiernan's "argument that Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea regime was more racist and generically totalitarian than Marxist or specifically Communist", Steve Heder states that the example of such racialist thought as it is applied in relation to the minority Cham people echoed "Marx's definition of a historyless people doomed to extinction in the name of progress" and it was therefore a part of general concepts of class and class struggle. [190] French historian Henri Locard argues that the "fascist" label was applied to the Khmer Rouge by the Communist Party of Vietnam as a form of "revisionism", but the repression which existed under the rule of the Khmer Rouge was "similar (if significantly more lethal) to the repression in all communist regimes." [187] Daniel Goldhagen explains that the Khmer Rouge were xenophobic because they believed that the Khmer were "the one authentic people capable of building true communism." [191] Steven Rosefielde claims that Democratic Kampuchea was the deadliest of all communist regimes on a per capita basis, primarily because it "lacked a viable productive core" and it "failed to set boundaries on mass murder." [192]

Memorial at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh

Killing Field mass graves at the Choeung Ek Cambodian Genocide centre

Chankiri Tree (Killing Tree) at Choeung Ek, where infants were fatally smashed during the genocide

Other states Edit

Barbara Harff and Ted Gurr write, "Most Marxist-Leninist regimes which came to power through protracted armed struggle in the postwar period perpetrated one or more politicides, though of vastly different magnitudes." [br] According to Benjamin Valentino, mass killings on a smaller scale than his standard of 50,000 people who were killed within a period of five years may have also occurred in other communist states such as Bulgaria, Romania and East Germany, although the lack of documentation prevents the reaching of a definitive judgement about the scale of these events and the motives of their perpetrators. [193] Valentino states most regimes that described themselves as communist did not commit mass killings. [6] Frank W. Wayman and Atsushi Tago write that because "democide" is broader than "mass killing" or "genocide," most communist regimes can be said to have engaged in it, including the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Vietnam, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, Albania and Yugoslavia. [194]

People's Republic of Bulgaria Edit

According to Valentino, available evidence suggests that between 50,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in Bulgaria beginning in 1944 as part of a campaign of agricultural collectivization and political repression, although there is insufficient documentation to make a definitive judgement. [193] In his book History of Communism in Bulgaria, Dinyu Sharlanov accounts for about 31,000 people who were killed by the regime between 1944 and 1989. [195] [196]

East Germany Edit

According to Valentino, between 80,000 and 100,000 people may have been killed in East Germany beginning in 1945 as part of the Soviet Union's denazification campaign, but other scholars argue that these estimates are inflated. [193] [197] [198]

Immediately after World War II, denazification commenced in occupied Germany and the regions which the Nazis had annexed. In the Soviet occupation zone, the NKVD established prison camps, usually in abandoned concentration camps, and they used them to intern alleged Nazis and Nazi German officials along with some landlords and Prussian Junkers. According to files and data which was released by the Soviet Ministry for the Interior in 1990, in total, 123,000 Germans and 35,000 citizens of other nations were detained. Of these prisoners, a total of 786 people were shot and 43,035 people died of various causes. Most of the deaths were not direct killings, instead, they were caused by outbreaks of dysentery and tuberculosis. Deaths from starvation also occurred on a large scale, particularly from late 1946 to early 1947, but these deaths do not appear to have been deliberate killings because food shortages were widespread in the Soviet occupation zone. The prisoners in the "silence camps", as the NKVD special camps were called, did not have access to the black market and as a result, they were only able to get food that was handed to them by the authorities. Some prisoners were executed and other prisoners may have been tortured to death. In this context, it is difficult to determine if the prisoner deaths in the silence camps can be categorized as mass killings. It is also difficult to determine how many of the dead were Germans, East Germans, or members of other nationalities. [199] [200]

In 1961, East Germany erected the Berlin Wall following the Berlin crisis. Even though crossing between East Germany and West Germany was possible for motivated and approved travelers, thousands of East Germans tried to defect by illegally crossing the wall. Of these, between 136 and 227 people were killed by the Berlin Wall's guards during the years of the wall's existence (1961-1989). [201] [202]

Socialist Republic of Romania Edit

According to Valentino, between 60,000 and 300,000 people may have been killed in Romania beginning in 1945 as part of agricultural collectivization and political repression. [193]

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Edit

The decision to 'annihilate' opponents must had been adopted in the closest circles of the Yugoslav state leadership, and the order was certainly issued by the Supreme Commander of the Yugoslav Army Josip Broz Tito, although it is not known when or in what form. [203] [204] [205] [206] [bs]

Dominic McGoldrick writes that as the head of a "highly centralised and oppressive" dictatorship, Tito wielded tremendous power in Yugoslavia, with his dictatorial rule administered through an elaborate bureaucracy which routinely suppressed human rights. [206] Eliott Behar states that "Tito's Yugoslavia was a tightly controlled police state". [207] According to David Mates, outside the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia had more political prisoners than all of the rest of Eastern Europe combined. [208] Tito's secret police was modelled on the Soviet KGB. Its members were ever-present and they often acted extrajudicially, [209] with victims including middle-class intellectuals, liberals and democrats. [210] Yugoslavia was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but scant regard was paid to some of its provisions. [211]

North Korea Edit

According to Rummel, forced labor, executions and concentration camps were responsible for over one million deaths in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from 1948 to 1987. [212] Others have estimated that in North Korea's concentration camps alone, 400,000 people died. [213] A wide range of atrocities have been committed in the camps including forced abortions, infanticide and torture. Former International Criminal Court judge Thomas Buergenthal, who was one of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's authors and a child survivor of Auschwitz, told The Washington Post "that conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps and in my long professional career in the human rights field." [214] Pierre Rigoulot estimates 100,000 executions, 1.5 million deaths through concentration camps and slave labor, and 500,000 deaths from famine. [215]

The famine, which claimed as many as one million lives, has been described as the result of the economic policies of the North Korean government [216] and deliberate "terror-starvation." [217] In 2010, Steven Rosefielde stated that the "Red Holocaust" "still persists in North Korea" as Kim Jong Il "refuses to abandon mass killing." [218] Adam Jones cites journalist Jasper Becker's claim that the famine was a form of mass killing or genocide due to political manipulations of the food. [219] Estimates based on a North Korean 2008 census suggest 240,000 to 420,000 excess deaths as a result of the 1990s North Korean famine and a demographic impact of 600,000 to 850,000 fewer people in North Korea in 2008 as a result of poor living conditions after the famine. [220]

Democratic Republic of Vietnam Edit

Valentino attributes 80,000–200,000 deaths to "communist mass killings" in North and South Vietnam. [221]

According to scholarship based on Vietnamese and Hungarian archival evidence, as many as 15,000 suspected landlords were executed during North Vietnam's land reform from 1953 to 1956. [bt] [222] [223] The North Vietnamese leadership planned in advance to execute 0.1% of North Vietnam's population (estimated at 13.5 million in 1955) as "reactionary or evil landlords", although this ratio could vary in practice. [224] [225] Dramatic errors were committed in the course of the land reform campaign. [226] Vu Tuong states that the number of executions during North Vietnam's land reform was proportionally comparable to executions during Chinese land reform from 1949 to 1952. [224]

Cuba Edit

According to Jay Ulfelder and Benjamin Valentino, in research about assessing the risks of state-sponsored mass killing, where a mass killing is defined as "the actions of state agents result[ing] in the intentional death of at least 1,000 noncombatants from a discrete group in a period of sustained violence", the Fidel Castro government of Cuba killed between 5,000 and 8,335 noncombatants as a part of the campaign of political repression between 1959 and 1970. [227]

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan Edit

According to Frank Wayman and Atsushi Tago, although frequently considered an example of communist genocide, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan represents a borderline case. [194] Prior to the Soviet–Afghan War, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan executed between 10,000 and 27,000 people, mostly at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. [228] [229] [230] Mass graves of executed prisoners have been exhumed dating back to the Soviet era. [231]

After the invasion in 1979, the Soviets installed the puppet government of Babrak Karmal. By 1987, about 80% of the country's territory was permanently controlled by neither the pro-communist government and supporting Soviet troops nor by the armed opposition. To tip the balance, the Soviet Union used a tactic that was a combination of "scorched earth" policy and "migratory genocide". By systematically burning the crops and destroying villages in rebel provinces as well as by reprisal bombing entire villages suspected of harboring or supporting the resistance, the Soviets tried to force the local population to move to Soviet controlled territory, thereby depriving the armed opposition of support. [232] Valentino attributes between 950,000 and 1,280,000 civilian deaths to the Soviet invasion and occupation of the country between 1978 and 1989, primarily as counter-guerrilla mass killing. [233] By the early 1990s, approximately one-third of Afghanistan's population had fled the country. [bu] M. Hassan Kakar said that "the Afghans are among the latest victims of genocide by a superpower." [234]

People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Edit

Amnesty International estimates that half a million people were killed during the Ethiopian Red Terror of 1977 and 1978. [235] [236] [237] During the terror, groups of people were herded into churches that were then burned down and women were subjected to systematic rape by soldiers. [238] The Save the Children Fund reported that victims of the Red Terror included not only adults, but 1,000 or more children, mostly aged between eleven and thirteen, whose corpses were left in the streets of Addis Ababa. [235] Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam himself is alleged to have killed political opponents with his bare hands. [239]

According to historian J. Arch Getty, over half of the 100 million deaths which are attributed to communism were due to famines. [240] Stéphane Courtois argues that many communist regimes caused famines in their efforts to forcibly collectivize agriculture and systematically used it as a weapon by controlling the food supply and distributing food on a political basis. Courtois states that "in the period after 1918, only Communist countries experienced such famines, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of people. And again in the 1980s, two African countries that claimed to be Marxist-Leninist, Ethiopia and Mozambique, were the only such countries to suffer these deadly famines." [bv]

Scholars Stephen G. Wheatcroft, R. W. Davies, and Mark Tauger reject the idea that the Ukrainian famine was an act of genocide that was intentionally inflicted by the Soviet government. [241] [242] Getty posits that the "overwhelming weight of opinion among scholars working in the new archives is that the terrible famine of the 1930s was the result of Stalinist bungling and rigidity rather than some genocidal plan". [240] Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn opined on 2 April 2008 in Izvestia that the 1930s famine in the Ukraine was no different from the Russian famine of 1921 as both were caused by the ruthless robbery of peasants by Bolshevik grain procurements. [243]

Pankaj Mishra questions Mao's direct responsibility for famine, noting: "A great many premature deaths also occurred in newly independent nations not ruled by erratic tyrants". Mishra cites Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's research demonstrating that democratic India suffered more excess mortality from starvation and disease in the second half of the 20th century than China did. Sen wrote that "India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame". [244] [245]

Benjamin Valentino writes: "Although not all the deaths due to famine in these cases were intentional, communist leaders directed the worst effects of famine against their suspected enemies and used hunger as a weapon to force millions of people to conform to the directives of the state." [60] Daniel Goldhagen says that in some cases deaths from famine should not be distinguished from mass murder: "Whenever governments have not alleviated famine conditions, political leaders decided not to say no to mass death – in other words, they said yes." He claims that instances of this occurred in the Mau Mau Rebellion, the Great Leap Forward, the Nigerian Civil War, the Eritrean War of Independence and the War in Darfur. [246]

Authors including Seumas Milne and Jon Wiener have criticized the emphasis on communism when assigning blame for famines, noting the "moral blindness displayed towards the record of colonialism". Milne, in a 2002 Guardian piece, writes that "If Lenin and Stalin are regarded as having killed those who died of hunger in the famines of the 1920s and 1930s, then Churchill is certainly responsible for the 4 million deaths in the avoidable Bengal famine of 1943". He lamented that while "there is a much-lauded Black Book of Communism, [there exists] no such comprehensive indictment of the colonial record". [247] Weiner makes a similar assertion while comparing the Holodomor and the Bengal famine of 1943, stating that Winston Churchill's role in the Bengal famine "seems similar to Stalin's role in the Ukrainian famine." [248] Historian Mike Davis, author of Late Victorian Holocausts, draws comparisons between the Great Chinese Famine and the Indian famines of the late 19th century, arguing that in both instances the governments which oversaw the response to the famines deliberately chose not to alleviate conditions and as such bear responsibility for the scale of deaths in said famines. [249]

British historian Michael Ellman is critical of the fixation on a "uniquely Stalinist evil" when it comes to excess deaths from famines. Ellman argues that mass deaths from famines are not a "uniquely Stalinist evil", noting that throughout Russian history, famines and droughts have been a common occurrence, including the Russian famine of 1921–22 (which occurred before Stalin came to power). He also notes that famines were widespread throughout the world in the 19th and 20th centuries in countries such as India, Ireland, Russia and China. According to Ellman, the G8 "are guilty of mass manslaughter or mass deaths from criminal negligence because of their not taking obvious measures to reduce mass deaths" and Stalin's "behaviour was no worse than that of many rulers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries." [107]

According to a 1992 constitutional amendment in the Czech Republic, a person who publicly denies, puts in doubt, approves, or tries to justify Nazi or communist genocide or other crimes of Nazis or communists will be punished with a prison term of 6 months to 3 years. [250]

In 1992, Barbara Harff wrote that no communist country or governing body has ever been convicted of genocide. [251] In his 1999 foreword to The Black Book of Communism, Martin Malia wrote: "Throughout the former Communist world, moreover, virtually none of its responsible officials has been put on trial or punished. Indeed, everywhere Communist parties, though usually under new names, compete in politics." [252]

At the conclusion of a trial lasting from 1994 to 2006, Ethiopia's former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by an Ethiopian court for his role in Ethiopia's Red Terror. [253] [254] [255] [256] Ethiopian law is distinct from the United Nations' Genocide Convention and other definitions in that it defines genocide as intent to wipe out political and not just ethnic groups. In this respect, it closely resembles the definition of politicide. [251]

In 1997, the Cambodian government asked the United Nations for assistance in setting up the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. [257] [258] [259] The prosecution presented the names of five possible suspects to the investigating judges on July 18, 2007. [257] On July 26, 2010, Kang Kek Iew (Comrade Duch), director of the S-21 prison camp in Democratic Kampuchea where more than 14,000 people were tortured and then murdered (mostly at nearby Choeung Ek), was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years. His sentence was reduced to 19 years in part because he had been behind bars for 11 years. [260] Nuon Chea, second in command of the Khmer Rouge and its most senior surviving member, was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not charged with genocide. On August 7, 2014, he was convicted of crimes against humanity by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and received a life sentence. [261] [262] Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge head of state, was also convicted of crimes against humanity. In 2018, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted of genocide for "the attempted extermination of the Cham and Vietnamese minorities." [263]

In August 2007, Arnold Meri, an Estonian Red Army veteran and cousin of former Estonian president Lennart Meri, faced charges of genocide by Estonian authorities for participating in the deportations of Estonians in Hiiumaa in 1949. [264] [265] Meri denied the accusation, characterizing them as politically motivated defamation, saying: "I do not consider myself guilty of genocide." The trial was halted when Meri died March 27, 2009 at the age of 89. [266]

On November 26, 2010, the Russian State Duma issued a declaration acknowledging Stalin's responsibility for the Katyn massacre, the execution of over 21,000 Polish POW's and intellectual leaders by Stalin's NKVD. The declaration stated that archival material "not only unveils the scale of his horrific tragedy but also provides evidence that the Katyn crime was committed on direct orders from Stalin and other Soviet leaders." [267]

Monuments to the victims of communism exist in almost all the capitals of Eastern Europe and there are also several museums which document the crimes which occurred during communist rule such as the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights in Lithuania, the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia in Riga and the House of Terror in Budapest, all three of these museums also document the crimes which occurred during Nazi rule. [268] [240]

In Washington D.C., a bronze statue which is modeled after the 1989 Tiananmen Square Goddess of Democracy sculpture was dedicated as the Victims of Communism Memorial in 2007, having been authorized by the Congress in 1993. [19] [269] The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation plans to build an International Museum on Communism in Washington. [270]

In 2002, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism was unveiled in Prague. [271] In Hungary, the Gloria Victis Memorial to honor "the 100 million victims of communism" was erected in 2006 on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. [272]

As of 2008, Russia contained 627 memorials and memorial plaques which are dedicated to the victims of the communist terror, most of them were created by private citizens, but it did not have either a national monument or a national museum. [273] The Wall of Grief in Moscow, inaugurated in October 2017, is Russia's first monument to the victims of political persecution by Joseph Stalin during the country's Soviet era. [274]

On August 23, 2018, Estonia's Victims of Communism 1940–1991 Memorial was inaugurated in Tallinn by President Kersti Kaljulaid. [276] The memorial's construction was financed by the state and the memorial itself is currently being managed by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory. [277] The date of the opening ceremony was chosen because it coincided with the official European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. [278]

How Lenin’s body was attacked — before and after his death

During his time as leader of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin didn&rsquot seem too concerned about his personal security &mdash usually only one bodyguard accompanied him. Did Lenin think he was invincible? He was the victim of more than one assassination attempt, the first coming in January 1918 when monarchists tried to shoot him. Shortly after, another plot to take his life was foiled, while in August the same year Lenin almost met his maker when terrorist Fanny Kaplan shot him &mdash but he survived.

Still, he only decided to beef up his security after a bizarre incident. In 1919, Lenin&rsquos car was stopped on the outskirts of Moscow by six armed bandits who wanted to steal his wheels (cars were still a pretty rare form of transport back then) so they had a getaway ride for a bank robbery.

When Lenin, his sister, and private driver and bodyguard stepped out of the car, he said: &ldquoWhat&rsquos the matter? I&rsquom Lenin!&rdquo The criminals didn&rsquot recognize him though, and hijacked his car, money, and documents. After this, Lenin ordered a full-time guard unit for himself (dented pride, perhaps?). But no one else tried to kill the leader from this point on.

A despised corpse

Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square, 1924

Lenin died on Jan. 21, 1924 and shortly afterwards was embalmed and laid to rest in the Mausoleum on Red Square. The fact he was dead didn&rsquot stop people trying to mutilate his body, and 10 years later &mdash on March 19, 1934 &mdash a man entered the building and tried to shoot the corpse but missed, before turning the gun on himself. He was Mitrofan Nikitin, an agricultural worker. Upset by corruption and famine in the newborn state, he wanted to disfigure Lenin&rsquos body as an act of protest. A suicide note explaining his motivation was found on his body and sent immediately to Joseph Stalin&rsquos private archive. &ldquoWake up, what are you doing? Where have you taken the country? It&rsquos all going downhill to the abyss,&rdquo the note read. The details of this attempt were not uncovered until the 1990s.

Queue for the Vladimir Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow, 1960

Naum Granovskiy/RIA Novosti

On March 20, 1959 somebody tried to break the glass covering Lenin&rsquos sarcophagus with a hammer, but failed. Another attempt to smash the case proved successful in July 1960 though, when a man named Minibaev climbed onto the casing and kicked it. Shards of glass pierced the former Soviet leader&rsquos hands and face. The fragments had to be removed using tweezers and cleaning solution, while the corpse&rsquos face needed a complete repair job. During interrogation, Minibaev confessed that he had been planning to destroy the body since 1949.

After this, the sarcophagus&rsquo glass was toughened &mdash so when a 59-year-old pensioner tried to break it in 1966 with a sledgehammer, it held firm.

An unknown assassin

Lenin's body in the sarcophagus

Oleg Lastochkin/RIA Novosti

Oddly, there is little information about the people who attacked Lenin&rsquos body. They kind of disappeared. The last and deadliest attack, which claimed innocent lives, was also carried out by a man whose records literally dissolved into thin air.

On Sept. 1, 1973 students from a Moscow school were paying Lenin a visit on Knowledge Day, a Russian holiday. The security at the door was minimal &mdash bags were handed over but no personal inspections were in place. A man joined the group of kids so the guards thought he was a teacher &mdash as he walked around the sarcophagus he triggered a bomb, instantly killing a couple from Astrakhan, seriously injuring four children, concussing two guards, and blowing his own body to smithereens. The sarcophagus and Lenin&rsquos body remained unharmed. Only parts of the bomber&rsquos hand and skull were found at the site. Uncovered documents later suggested the attacker had been previously sentenced to 10 years in prison, but this remains unproven.

Guards at the Mausoleum's doors

Valeriy Shustov/RIA Novosti

That was the last serious attack on Lenin&rsquos corpse. In post-Soviet Russia, less serious incidents have occurred: In 2010 a man (wanted for robbery and assault) shouted appeals to bury the body and destroy the Mausoleum, while later the same year another man tossed a roll of toilet paper into the tomb before being confined to a psychiatric ward. And in 2015, some political activists poured sacred water over the Mausoleum, only to be detained by guards. &ldquoGet up and go!&rdquo the activists shouted.

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Vladimir Lenin was voted the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union (Sovnarkom) on 30 December 1922 by the Congress of Soviets. [11] At the age of 53, his health declined from effects of two bullet wounds, later aggravated by three strokes which culminated with his death in 1924. [12] Irrespective of his health status in his final days, Lenin was already losing much of his power to Joseph Stalin. [13] Alexei Rykov succeeded Lenin as Chairman of the Sovnarkom and although he was de jure the most powerful person in the country, but in fact all power was concentrated in the hands of the "troika" - the union of three influential party figures: Grigory Zinoviev, Joseph Stalin and Lev Kamenev. Stalin continued to increase his influence in the party, and by the end of the 1920s he became the sole dictator of the USSR, defeating all his political opponents. The post of General Secretary of the party, which was held by Stalin, became the most important post in the Soviet hierarchy.

Stalin's early policies pushed for rapid industrialisation, nationalisation of private industry [14] and the collectivisation of private plots created under Lenin's New Economic Policy. [15] As leader of the Politburo, Stalin consolidated near-absolute power by 1938 after the Great Purge, a series of campaigns of political murder, repression and persecution. [16] Nazi German troops invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, [17] but by December the Soviet Army managed to stop the attack just shy of Moscow. On Stalin's orders, the Soviet Union launched a counter-attack on Nazi Germany which finally succeeded in 1945. [18] Stalin died in March 1953 [19] and his death triggered a power struggle in which Nikita Khrushchev after several years emerged victorious against Georgy Malenkov. [20]

Khrushchev denounced Stalin on two occasions, first in 1956 and then in 1962. His policy of de-Stalinisation earned him many enemies within the party, especially from old Stalinist appointees. Many saw this approach as destructive and destabilising. A group known as Anti-Party Group tried to oust Khrushchev from office in 1957, but it failed. [21] As Khrushchev grew older, his erratic behavior became worse, usually making decisions without discussing or confirming them with the Politburo. [22] Leonid Brezhnev, a close companion of Khrushchev, was elected First Secretary the same day of Khrushchev's removal from power. Alexei Kosygin became the new Premier and Anastas Mikoyan kept his office as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. On the orders of the Politburo, Mikoyan was forced to retire in 1965 and Nikolai Podgorny took over the office of Chairman of the Presidium. [23] The Soviet Union in the post-Khrushchev 1960s was governed by a collective leadership. [24] Henry A. Kissinger, the American National Security Advisor, mistakenly believed that Kosygin was the leader of the Soviet Union and that he was at the helm of Soviet foreign policy because he represented the Soviet Union at the 1967 Glassboro Summit Conference. [25] The "Era of Stagnation", a derogatory term coined by Mikhail Gorbachev, was a period marked by low socio-economic efficiency in the country and a gerontocracy ruling the country. [26] Yuri Andropov (aged 68 at the time) succeeded Brezhnev in his post as General Secretary in 1982. In 1983, Andropov was hospitalised and rarely met up at work to chair the politburo meetings due to his declining health. Nikolai Tikhonov usually chaired the meetings in his place. [27] Following Andropov's death fifteen months after his appointment, an even older leader, 72 year old Konstantin Chernenko, was elected to the General Secretariat. His rule lasted for little more than a year until his death thirteen months later on 10 March 1985. [28]

At the age of 54, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected to the General Secretariat by the Politburo on 11 March 1985. [29] In May 1985, Gorbachev publicly admitted the slowing down of the economic development and inadequate living standards, being the first Soviet leader to do so while also beginning a series of fundamental reforms. From 1986 to around 1988, he dismantled central planning, allowed state enterprises to set their own outputs, enabled private investment in businesses not previously permitted to be privately owned and allowed foreign investment, among other measures. He also opened up the management of and decision-making within the Soviet Union and allowed greater public discussion and criticism, along with a warming of relationships with the West. These twin policies were known as perestroika (literally meaning "reconstruction", though it varies) and glasnost ("openness" and "transparency"), respectively. [30] The dismantling of the principal defining features of Soviet Communism in 1988 and 1989 in the Soviet Union led to the unintended consequence of the Soviet Union breaking up after the failed August 1991 coup led by Gennady Yanayev. [31]

The following list includes persons who held the top leadership position of the Soviet Union from its founding in 1922 until its 1991 dissolution. Note that † denotes leaders who died in office.


Before the famine began, Russia had suffered three and a half years of World War I and the Civil Wars of 1918–20, many of the conflicts fought inside Russia. [5] There were an estimated 7–12 million casualties during the Russian Civil War, mostly civilians. [6]

Before the famine, all sides in the Russian Civil Wars of 1918–21—the Bolsheviks, the Whites, the Anarchists, the seceding nationalities—had provisioned themselves by seizing food from those who grew it, giving it to their armies and supporters, and denying it to their enemies. The Bolshevik government had requisitioned supplies from the peasantry for little or nothing in exchange. This led peasants to drastically reduce their crop production. The rich peasants (kulaks) withheld their surplus grain to sell on the black market. [7] [8] [9] In 1920, Lenin ordered increased emphasis on food requisitioning from the peasantry.

Aid from outside Soviet Russia was initially rejected. The American Relief Administration (ARA), which Herbert Hoover formed to help the victims of starvation of World War I, offered assistance to Lenin in 1919, on condition that they have full say over the Russian railway network and hand out food impartially to all. Lenin refused this as interference in Russian internal affairs. [5]

Lenin was eventually convinced—by this famine, the Kronstadt rebellion, large scale peasant uprisings such as the Tambov Rebellion, and the failure of a German general strike—to reverse his policy at home and abroad. He decreed the New Economic Policy on March 15, 1921. The famine also helped produce an opening to the West: Lenin allowed relief organizations to bring aid this time. War relief was no longer required in Western Europe, and the ARA had an organization set up in Poland, relieving the Polish famine which had begun in the winter of 1919–20. [10]

The early 1920s saw a series of famines. The first famine in the USSR happened in 1921–1923 and garnered wide international attention. The most affected area being the Southeastern areas of European Russia, including Volga region. An estimated 16 million people may have been affected and up to 5 million died. [11]

In the summer of 1921, during one of the worst famines in history, Vladimir Lenin, head of the new Soviet government, along with Maxim Gorky, appealed in an open letter to "all honest European and American people", to "give bread and medicine". [12] In an open letter to all nations, dated 13 July 1921, Gorky described the crop failure which had brought his country to the brink of starvation. [13] Herbert Hoover, who would later become the U.S. President, responded immediately, and negotiations with Russia took place at the Latvian capital, Riga. [13] A European effort was led by the famous Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen through the International Committee for Russian Relief (ICRR) [14]

Hoover's ARA had already been distributing food aid throughout Europe since 1914. After the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914, Hoover set up the Belgian Relief committee to alleviate the devastation and starvation that followed. As World War I expanded, the ARA grew, when it next entered northern France, assisting France and Germany from 1914 to 1919. [15] In 1920 and 1921 it provided one meal a day to 3.2 million children in Finland, Estonia, various Russian regions, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Armenia. When it began its emergency feeding operation in Russia, it planned to feed about one million Russian children for a full year. [16] Other bodies such as the American Friends Service Committee, the British Friends' War Victims Relief Committee and the International Save the Children Union, with the British Save the Children Fund as the major contributor, also later took part. [17] As historian Douglas Smith writes, the food relief would likely help "save communist Russia from ruin". [18]

America was the first country to respond, with Hoover appointing Colonel William N. Haskell to direct the American Relief Administration (ARA) in Russia. Within a month, ships loaded with food were headed for Russia. The main contributor to the international relief effort would be the American Relief Administration (ARA), founded and directed by Hoover. [19] [12] [20] Although it had agreed to provide food for a million people, mostly children, within a year it was feeding more than ten times that number daily. [21]

The ARA insisted it have complete autonomy as to how the food would be distributed, stating its requirement that food would be given without regard to "race, creed or social status", a condition stated in Section 25 of the Riga agreement. [12] U.S. spokesmen said they would also want to have storage facilities built in Russia, wrote journalist Charles Bartlett, and would expect to have full access to those to assure that food was distributed properly. [13] [a]

Hoover also demanded that Russia use some of its gold holdings to defray the cost of the relief effort. He secured $18 million from the Russian leadership, $20 million from the U.S. Congress, $8 million from the U.S. military, and additional money from U.S. charities, to arrive at a total of approximately $78 million from all those sources. [13] After an agreement was finally signed at Riga, the U.S. set up its first kitchen in Petrograd, where 1.6 million people had already starved to death. [13]

W. Howard Ramsey, newspaper editor [21]

Over ten million people were fed daily, with the bulk of food coming from the ARA. The ARA had provided more than 768 million tons of flour, grain, rice, beans, pork, milk, and sugar, with a value at the time of over $98 million. [13] In order to transport and distribute the food after it was collected in the U.S., the ARA used 237 ships, under the direction of 200 Americans, and with the help of 125,000 Russians on location, unloading, warehousing, hauling, weighing, cooking and serving the food in more than 21,000 newly established kitchens. [21]

But even after the food had reached the people in need, Col. Haskell, informed Hoover of an unexpected new danger. He explained that fuel was unavailable for heating or cooking, and millions of Russian peasants had clothing consisting mostly of rags, which would lead to certain death from cold exposure during the approaching winter. [22]

The children at risk included those in orphanages and other institutions, as they usually had only one garment, often made of flour sacks, and they lacked shoes, stockings, underclothing or any clothing to keep warm. Also at risk were children living at home with their parents, who also lacked enough clothing, which made them unable to reach the American relief kitchens. Col. Haskell cabled Mr. Hoover that at least one million children were in extreme need of clothes. In response, Hoover quickly initiated a plan for collecting and sending clothing packages to Russia, which would come from donations by individuals, businesses, and banks. [22]

Medical needs were also paramount. As noted by Dr. Henry Beeuwkes, the chief of the Medical Division in Russia, American relief was supplying over 16,000 hospitals which were treating more than a million persons daily. [21] Because those institutions were scattered over areas with few railroads and often poor roads, with some hospitals over a thousand miles from the main supply base in Moscow, the task was monumental. Dr. Louis L. Shapiro, an army colonel who was one of the ARA's medical directors in Russia, recalled that south Russia had little more than "mud ruts for roads, with limitless prairies." [15] On one trip, with few car necessities or regular gas, he drove 150 miles on tires without inner tubes, instead stuffed with straw. [15] "After our kitchens were established and our clinics able to distribute medical supplies," said Shapiro, "children who had been eating a diet of clay and leather scrapings, responded quite rapidly." [15]

According to Dr. Beeuwkes, everything was in short supply, including beds, blankets, sheets, and most medical tools and medicines. Operations were performed in unheated operating rooms without anesthetics, and often with bare hands. Wounds were dressed with newspapers or rags. Water supplies were polluted with much of the plumbing unusable.

To help the widespread medical emergency, the ARA distributed medical supplies which included over 2,000 different necessities, from medicines to surgical instruments. Overall, there were 125,000 medical packages, weighing 15 million pounds, sent on sixty-nine different ships. [21] According to Dr. Shapiro, when the ARA left Russia in 1923, after two years of relief efforts, "the Russians had been pulled out of the slough of famine and death. I can say without boasting that no relief organization ever worked so hard to complete its task." [15]

In May 1922, Lev Kamenev, President of the Moscow soviet, and deputy chairman of all Russian famine relief committees, wrote a letter to Col. Haskell, thanking him and the ARA for its help, while also paying tribute to the American people. [16] [23]

The government of the Russian nation will never forget the generous help that was afforded them in the terrible calamity and dangers visited upon them. I wish to express, on behalf of the Soviet government, my satisfaction and thanks to the American Relief Administration, through your person, for the substantial support which they are offering to the calamity stricken population of the Volga area.

By the summer of 1923, it was estimated that the U.S. relief given to Russia amounted to over twice the total of relief given it by all other foreign organizations combined. [24] European agencies co-ordinated by the ICRR also fed two million people a day, while the International Save the Children Union fed up to 375,000. [25] [26] The operation was hazardous—several workers died of cholera—and was not without its critics, including the London Daily Express, which first denied the severity of the famine, and then argued that the money would better be spent in the United Kingdom. [27]

Throughout 1922 and 1923, as famine was still widespread and the ARA was still providing relief supplies, grain was exported by the Soviet government to raise funds for the revival of industry this seriously endangered Western support for relief. The new Soviet government insisted that if the AYA suspended relief the ARA arrange a foreign loan for them of about $10,000,000 1923 dollars the ARA was unable to do this, and continued to ship in food past the grain being sold abroad. [28] [29]

America's Contribution to the Russian Famine Relief Effort [21]
Children fed daily 4,173,339
Adults fed daily 6,317,958
Maximum number fed daily 10,491,297
Number of meals served 1,750,000,000
Number of separate kitchens opened 21,435
People clothed 333,125
Medical supplies value $7,685,000
Hospitals provided with supplies 16,400
Number of inoculations given 6,396,598
Number of vaccinations given 1,304,401
Tons of food provided 912,121
Tons of medical supplies provided 7,500
Number of U.S. ships used 237

As with other large-scale famines, the range of estimates is considerable. An official Soviet publication of the early 1920s concluded that about five million deaths occurred in 1921 from famine and related disease: this number is usually quoted in textbooks. [30] More conservative figures counted not more than a million, while another assessment, based on the ARA's medical division, spoke of two million. [31] On the other side of the scale, some sources spoke of ten million dead. [32] According to Bertrand M. Patenaude, "such a number hardly seems extravagant after the many tens of millions of victims of war, famine, and terror in the twentieth century". [33]

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